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Red Arrows to lead VJ Day commemorations with flypast over Belfast

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Sailors on HMS Formidable, which saw action in the Battle of Okinawa, exercising

Sailors on HMS Formidable, which saw action in the Battle of Okinawa, exercising

PA

Sailors on HMS Formidable, which saw action in the Battle of Okinawa, exercising

The Red Arrows will stage a flypast over Belfast as the 75th anniversary of VJ Day is marked in Northern Ireland today.

A series of events are planned across the region, although they will be low-key as this year's landmark Second World War anniversaries are commemorated amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Japan's surrender to the Allied forces on August 15, 1945, ended the conflict's hostilities.

Up to 64,000 people from Northern Ireland served in the Second World War, including the Far East campaign.

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said it was a "significant milestone".

"VJ Day is a time for us to reflect and show our gratitude to our service personnel for their bravery, dedication and professionalism," he added.

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken stressed that it was important to remember the sacrifices of past generations.

"The war in the Far East is perhaps less remembered today but was as brutal and as fiercely fought as that against fascism in Europe," he said.

"The levels of inhumanity and the atrocious treatment of civilians and prisoners of war still resonate to this day.

"For many in Northern Ireland, this anniversary is particularly poignant, remembering relatives who were prisoners on the Burma railroad, those who fought with the Chindits, many who fought with the Royal Artillery in Burma and those who served at sea and in the RAF."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was joined by nine global figures, including US president Donald Trump, Nigeria's president Muhammadu Buhari and Canada's premier Justin Trudeau, in recording a video message thanking those who served.

In the Friendship of Nations video, released ahead of VJ Day, the leaders say: "To all who served, we thank you."

Mr Johnson said: "On this 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, we pay tribute to the heroes deployed thousands of miles away in the mountains, islands and rainforests of Asia.

"Unable to celebrate the victory in Europe and among the last to return home, today we recognise the bravery and ingenuity of those who, in the face of adversity, restored peace and prosperity to the world.

"Their immeasurable sacrifice changed the course of history, and at today's commemorations, we take the opportunity to say what should be said every day - thank you."

Also today, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will take part in a private service of remembrance and thanksgiving at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire from 9.30am, broadcast on BBC One.

At 11am, Charles and Camilla will lead a national two-minute silence in honour of those who lost their lives in the war. A number of veterans will be present at the service to remember their fallen comrades.

It will be followed by a flypast by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The Red Arrows will also conduct a flypast over Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and London, the first time such a flight has taken place since the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Charities including the Royal British Legion and Commonwealth War Graves Commission are urging people to make virtual acts of remembrance this year.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Edinburgh will make a rare public appearance on large screens placed across the country displaying a photo montage of war veterans. The 99-year-old, who retired from royal duties in 2017, served on the HMS Whelp, which was present in Tokyo Bay when Japanese officials signed the surrender on the USS Missouri.

Later today, the Duke of Cambridge will appear in VJ Day 75: The Nation's Tribute, a pre-recorded BBC programme filmed at Horse Guards Parade where, alongside veteran accounts, William will salute people's sacrifices during the war.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week that on the anniversary he wanted to remember the veterans who "were among the last to come home" and who "brought an end to the Second World War", which "changed the course of history for the better".

Locally, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is staging a shared history event to mark the anniversary of VJ Day.

The event will include a lecture from renowned historian Dr Eamon Phoenix, poetry reading by Portadown historian Richard Edgar and a musical accompaniment from piper Ian Burrows.

The event will be broadcast on the council's Facebook page from 11am this morning.

Tomorrow, a service at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast commemorating the 75th anniversary will be broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster, starting at 10.15am.

Belfast Telegraph